Grief Topic

Grief Reactions Associated with Young People

If you are reading this, it might be because you have had someone close to you die. Having someone you love die is never an easy experience. For young people who are learning about what life is all about, death can be a very difficult idea to grasp.

Many young people’s first experience is when their grandparents die. They are generally elderly and may have been ill for some time. Although it causes feelings of sadness, somehow we know that when older people have lead long and full lives, it is the right and proper time for them to die.

Sometimes grief that young people have to cope with is caused by sudden and tragic deaths. Family and friends might die suddenly from drug overdoses, car accidents, violence or suicide. Often these people are also young. Their deaths may be completely “out of the blue” and come as a major shock. This can feel very unjust and trigger new feelings so that a young person may have thoughts of suicide or be afraid to do certain things e.g. travel in cars.

The feelings experienced by young people after the death of someone they love include the following:

  • shock and disbelief
  • anger
  • feeling unmotivated and depressed
  • feeling guilty – perhaps for not being able to save the person from drugs or suicide
  • not knowing how to deal with powerful emotions
  • needing to blame someone

Young people may behave in new and difficult ways after the death of someone close. They may feel irritable and be short tempered. They have no experience in dealing with these new and powerful feelings. They may be trying to understand mortality for the first time and the concept of existence.

They need to be supported by people who are close to them: parents, relatives, friends, parents of friends, teachers. They need to know that it is OK to talk to a professional who can help them work out what they are feeling and how grief might affect them.

Parents should not be afraid to display their own grief to their children. It helps young people learn how to deal with grief if they can see their parents grieving. However we all grieve differently. Young people need to be able to express their grief in their own way.

Young people also need to know they will eventually work through their grief and adjust to the loss of the person they loved.

Page last updated 17th April, 2008